Lahi Brahimaj was indicted by the Prosecutor of the ICTY on 4 March 2005, together with Ramush Haradinaj.
Proceedings against him were taken up on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility (Art. 7 § 1 ICTY Statute) and also on the grounds of his superior hierarchical responsibility (Art. 7 § 3 ICTY Statute).
The bill of indictment formally accused him of having:
- ordered and supervised the infliction of cruel treatment, torture and murder on the detainees of the Jablanica detention centre in his position as commandant of this centre a role reinforced due to his rank as second in command of the army general staff and local leader of the UCK
- participated personally in these acts of torture cruel treatment and murder;
- personally abducted and possibly killed a civilian (who is still officially listed as missing).
Lahi Brahimaj is currently held in the ICTY detention facility, following his surrender on March 9, 2005. During his initial appearance, on March 14, 2005, he pleaded not guilty on all counts of the indictment.
The Trial of Brahimaj and his two co-accused (Ramush Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj) began on 5 March 2007.
All the way through the trial, the prosecutor denounced the pressure exerted upon prosecution witnesses. Several of the witnesses refused to appear before the Tribunal. The judges issued three indictments for contempt of court. According to a Tribunal source, three witnesses were allegedly assassinated, but the prosecutor did not present any evidence to support such allegations. For the first time in the Tribunal's history, the defence decided at the end of November 2007 not to call on any witnesses.
The closing arguments were presented on 21 January 2008. The prosecutor asked for 25 years imprisonment for each of the three accused.
On 3 April 2008, Haradinaj and Balaj were acquitted of all the charges. Brahimaj was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for cruel treatment and torture of two persons at the Jablanica/Jabllanicë headquarters of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
The Trial Chamber ordered the immediate release of Haradinaj and Balaj from the Detention Unit. Brahimaj returned to the Tribunal’s detention unit where he will await the enforcement of his sentence of six years’ imprisonment. Credit was given for the time Brahimaj has spent in custody since March 2005. Brahimaj appealed the decision.
On 19 July 2010, the Appeals Chamber upheld Mr. Brahimaj’s sentence and ordered his partial re-retrial, on the counts for which he had been acquitted, granting an appeal filed by the Prosecution. In the same Judgement, the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY quashed the Trial Chamber’s decision to acquit Haradinaj and Balaj and ordered their partial re-trial.
The Appeals Chamber found that in light of the trial’s context of serious witness intimidation, the Trial Chamber erred in refusing to grant the Prosecutor more time to secure the testimony of certain witnesses. Given the potential importance of these witnesses to the Prosecution’s case, the error, according to the Appeals Chamber undermined the fairness of the proceedings and resulted in a miscarriage of justice. The Appeals Chamber thus ordered the detention of Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj at United Nations Detention Unit in The Hague where they will remain pending further orders.
Re-trial began on 18 August 2011.
On 29 November 2012, Trial Chamber II of the ICTY acquitted Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj of all charges for lack of evidence, particularly with regard to the commitment of a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE). The Chamber ruled that “the Prosecution presented no direct evidence to prove that the established crimes were committed as part of a JCE in which the three accused participated”.
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.